South Africa

JUDICIARY IN CRISIS: Judge Hlophe slams Judicial Conduct Tribunal’s impeachment recommendation, blames ‘Judge Kriegler’s campaign’

Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe. (Photo: Gallo Images / Foto24 / Nelius Rademan)

Hlophe, through his legal counsel, also accused the tribunal of endorsing ‘the views of a political party that engaged in political campaigns, labelling Judge President Hlophe an ANC deployee and now a blight in the judiciary’.

Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe, through his beleaguered legal representative, Barnabas Xulu, has challenged the findings of a Judicial Conduct Tribunal which pronounced him guilty of gross misconduct. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hlophe said he “fundamentally disagreed with the factual and legal findings” of the tribunal.

Xulu slammed the tribunal for having “endorsed the partisan views of a retired Mr justice of the Constitutional Court Mr. Kriegler [sic] and his organisation, FUL [Freedom Under Law], who engaged in a spirited campaign against Judge President Hlophe”.

Xulu also accused the tribunal of endorsing “the views of a political party that engaged in political campaigns, labelling Judge President Hlophe ‘an ANC deployee’ and now a blight in [sic] the judiciary.

“While these outfits celebrate the ruling of the Tribunal, [the] Judge President is determined to vindicate his name and in so doing, will demonstrate how this findings does [sic] not correctly reflect the law and is not based on the facts presented to it.”

Interestingly, Hlophe’s statement through Xulu comes on the day a taped conversation of ANC Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte praising Hlophe for ANC “wins” in the Western Cape High Court was leaked.

On Saturday the tribunal panel, led by retired Judge Joop Labuschagne, found Hlophe guilty of misconduct and recommended that he face impeachment for approaching two Constitutional Court judges, Chris Jafta and Bess Nkabinde, in 2008 in order to influence their thinking in a matter involving former president Jacob Zuma.

Hlophe, in a media release on Tuesday, through Xulu, who himself lost an appeal to prevent the state from attaching his assets on 30 March, said the tribunal had “misdirected” itself.

While Xulu said that Hlophe “respects that the Judicial Conduct Tribunal has made its decision”, he fundamentally disagreed with “the factual and legal findings” of the tribunal.

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Hlophe would, “in due course, address to the appropriate forum his contentions” that the tribunal had “misdirected itself on numerous procedural and substantive issues rendering its findings unjustified”. 

The statement by the tribunal that Hlophe had questioned the participation of counsel for the two Constitutional Court justices was untrue and the matter had been raised “in at least two pre-trial” occasions, said Xulu.

The tribunal had also failed, alleged Xulu, “to deal with serious contradictions in the evidence of the witnesses who testified against Judge President Hlophe”. 

It had accepted “the version of the judges who testified against Judge President Hlophe” and that the Judge President “never set out to influence or persuade any Judges of the Constitutional Court to violate their oath of office”. 

Hlophe stood by the evidence presented to the tribunal, but, “had the tribunal carefully examined that evidence, it would have endorsed the 2009 JSC [Judicial Service Commission] findings that I am not guilty of gross judicial misconduct”. DM

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